Nut Free Lemon Basil Pesto

Pesto 3 Pesto 3

This pesto is bright, creamy, and has just a little bit of zing from the addition of the lemon juice. As we move into September it is the perfect way to use up the rest of your summer basil. I find that sauces and condiments are incredibly important for adding flavor on a restrictive diet. When you make this pesto at the beginning of the week you have a dipping sauce to elevate plain grilled chicken or fish, a sauce for zucchini noodle or spaghetti squash bowls, and even a dressing for salads when you mix it with a little extra oil. It is so versatile! I wasn’t sure the pesto would be thick enough without nuts, but as long as you are careful with how much olive oil you put in the consistency is perfect.

Lately I’ve been experimenting with cutting down my nut consumption. I think that one of the biggest mistakes people typically make when moving to a Paleo or grain free lifestyle is eating a lot of nuts. Instead of eating regular baked goods you start eating almond flour baked goods, and you start routinely snacking on nuts and nut butters because they are the easiest thing to find.

While nuts are a healthy food, they are supposed to be consumed in very small quantities. However, they are so addictive it can be hard to limit them, and with almond flour baked goods you are often consuming far more than a single serving of almonds!

In these larger quantities, and sometimes even in smaller quantities for some people, nuts can be very hard to digest. This is because they contain phytic acid, which protects the phosphorous in plants and is found in nuts, seeds, and grains. Humans aren’t able to adequately digest phytic acid and it binds to minerals like iron and zinc to travel through our digestive systems and keeps us from absorbing those minerals. In addition, phytic acid also can also inhibit our digestive enzymes which help us to break down and properly digest our foods. Finally, nuts are high in fat, which some people may have trouble breaking down, and many are high in FODMAPs and oxalates as well.

So, say we add nuts to this pesto and use it to make a pesto chicken spaghetti squash pasta, the nuts may inhibit our digestive enzymes so we are unable to properly digest the proteins and carbohydrates in the meal, and keep us from absorbing the wonderful vitamins and minerals in it.

Before you go throwing away all of your nuts, it is important to test what works best for you first. If you don’t notice digestive trouble when you eat nuts, keep them in your diet but be mindful of eating things like almond flour baked goods every day. If you do notice you’re having trouble with nuts, try reducing your consumption and also soaking and dehydrating the nuts to reduce phytates. If that still isn’t working for you, then try cutting them out totally.

Remember: everyone is individual and we want to keep the widest variety of foods in our diet as possible! However, if you do find nuts aren’t working for you, you can at least still enjoy this pesto!


Chicken pesto pasta

Recipe: Nut Free Lemon Basil Pesto


  • 4 oz fresh basil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil


1. Pulse all ingredients other than olive oil in blender.

2. Once ingredients are well chopped, begin slowly streaming in olive oil until desired consistency is reached.

**For low FODMAP, omit garlic and replace 2 tbs of olive oil with 2 tbs of garlic oil


Chris Kresser: Another Reason You Shouldn’t Go Nuts on Nuts

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  • Reply
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    […] look appetizing, but I promise these are DELICIOUS and packed with flavor! They use my nut-free pesto, but you can also use whatever you have on […]

  • Reply
    Jasmine Jonte
    October 7, 2016 at 9:21 am

    Looks so good! 🙂 Thanks for including the Low FODMAP substitution! 🙂 Garlic is a no-no for me. 🙂

    • Reply
      October 17, 2016 at 7:00 pm

      Thanks Jasmine! I don’t get along with garlic very well either 🙂

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